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First timer to Chicago in need of bday dinner recs

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Hi. This will be our first time to Chicago. I am attending a conference Nov 4-7, which is also over my birthday. My husband and I are looking for a place to go to celebrate. We are staying at the Hard Rock hotel, so we would like something easily accessible to there (willing to take transportation or walk aways, just nothing in the suburbs). We like all kind of foods and are trying to find a place that is unique to Chicago, but with excellent food.

I have been reading the boards and have picked out some choices. Where would you recommend I go between these places-

Blackbird
one sixty blue (new chef?)
Aigre Doux
MK

Or any other places that I have overlooked?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Those are four excellent places! I haven't been to one sixtyblue since Chef Noguier left, so I really can't say (although it was previously my favorite). I loved Aigre Doux when I ate there. I liked MK but not as much. I ate at Blackbird recently and was somewhat disappointed at the portion sizes (I left hungry). I find the closeness of the tables and the noise level to be downsides, but some people find that a plus. OTOH at previous meals the food has been consistently wonderful (and ample), so I don't know what's going on there.

    Two other places you might consider are North Pond and Naha. I consider North Pond especially suitable for a celebration dinner, because of its setting in the middle of the park - it's like a little private hideaway! Ask for a table in the room with the windows facing the pond and the skyline (although the last time I ate there I sat in the interior room with the open kitchen along one side, and I didn't feel slighted in any way by doing so).

    I would estimate distances from your hotel as follows:
    Aigre Doux .5 mile
    Naha .5 mile
    MK 1 mile
    Blackbird 1.5 miles
    one sixtyblue 2.5 miles
    North Pond 3 miles

    I think you can get a great meal at any of these six. If I had to choose one, I would probably choose North Pond since this is a special occasion; otherwise, I would probably choose Aigre Doux. But really, there are no bad choices in this group!

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks so much! I was considering North Pond originally, but it looked like it would be difficult to get there from my hotel. Do you recommend a cab ride or is public transportation a good option? Thanks again- I can't wait for my trip.

      1. re: biabiggie

        You can take either a cab or public transportation from the Hard Rock to North Pond. By cab, you can tell the driver to let you off at Lakeview and Deming (2600 N Lakeview); that's where the restaurant has a valet stand which can get you a cab for your return, too. It's a short walk from there into the park and the restaurant.

        By public transportation, you can take the #151 bus, which runs frequently at all hours. It stops in front of your hotel on Michigan Avenue going northbound, and goes past the restaurant on Stockton Drive through the park; ask the driver to let you off at the nearest stop to Deming (or he may know where the restaurant is). You can see the #151 bus schedule at www.transitchicago.com/maps/bus/bus/1...

        There's a small map showing where the restaurant is in relation to Lakeview, Deming, and Stockton on the restaurant's website at www.northpondrestaurant.com/text/dire...

        1. re: biabiggie

          I like North Pond and Blackbird a lot. Blackbird is one of my very favorite restaurants . . . I prefer the food to North Pond's, but I'm sure there are others who prefer North Pond. In terms of which one you choose, I think that depends not only upon which menu you like most, but also what atmosphere you seek. North Pond is one of the most beautiful dining locations in Chicago (set near a pond in the heart of Lincoln Park). However, North Pond's location might be a little lost on you at this time of year when the sun sets so early. The restaurant is also a little sedate, whereas Blackbird tends to be a little bit more lively and loud, and sometimes a bit cramped. The crowd at North Pond also tends to be slightly older than the crowd at Blackbird. So take that all into consideration, but I'm sure you'll be happy at either place.

          In terms of getting to both places, a cab is your best option. North Pond is a little further from your hotel, but I suspect you'll be able to get to both restaurants in about 10 minutes by cab. One advantage of the ride to and from North Pond is the view traveling along Lake Shore Drive (if you go to North Pond, make sure the driver takes the Drive).